So she's pregnant. Now what?!
You have a few months to start preparing for the arrival of your tiny human so take a deep breath and take it slow. Let yourself acclimatise to this new promotion to fatherhood, you're going to be amazing.
You may not be physically growing your child but you still have a vital role in pregnancy and birth.
So what can you do?
Firstly I'm going to qualify all of this with a bit of science. So we all have hormones surging round our bodies but OXYTOCIN is a magic juice for women. It was present in her body when you made your baby and it's the hormone that powers through labour and birth making the muscles of the uterus work with masterful efficiency. It also has huge role to play in her daily life with her deep connections and stress management.
When you show her love, when she feels a rush of connection with you, oxytocin is present in her body making her feel great and creating superb bonds between you both as you enter a new phase of your life. A SUPER bonus is that oxytocin crosses the placenta wall and into your baby resulting in a happy, calm and emotionally nourished baby.
HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR BIRTH?
Reading and researching
A good bit of filling your brain with useful pregnancy, birth and parenting information will fill you with confidence. When you start researching a topic, you'll begin to discover the answer to questions you never realised you had. As you understand about what is happening to her body and your baby, your relationship with the process will deepen and you'll have a wealth of knowledge to call upon as you go through the journey of pregnancy and birth together.
Be warned though, there's a lot of frankly patronising and sexist material out there aimed at fathers-to-be, so try before you buy ;).
It's no secret that women like to chat. But it actually goes beyond that. Talking things through is how women manage their anxiety and this is intrinsically linked to the hormone responses in their bodies. The aim of the game is to keep those delicious oxytocin levels up and just sitting, listening to her is a super easy and effective way that you can do this. The testosterone in you will activate your desire to 'fix it'. Resist the urge to fix anything. Just listen, make the right noises and validate her feelings. Her brain will be awash with oxytocin and you'll gain great insight into her fears, desires and wishes for labour and birth.
Chat with your partner about the kind of birthing experience you both want. Use your new found knowledge of her feelings and birth to formulate some birth preferences that are right for all of you. As you discuss building your ultimate birth squad, you might want to explore the option of a Doula who can support you all preparing for birth, during birth and afterwards.
Touch and massage
Whilst we have always known this, recent research has proven that human touch is a natural pain relief. And because of your relationship with your partner, your very touch will create a hormonal response in her. Endorphins (the body's natural pain relief) and oxytocin will fill her body and cross over into baby. She'll feel calmer, happier, supported and safe. Hugging her regularly throughout will make her feel great and deepen your relationship. Caressing her bump is a great way for you to bond with your unborn baby...you may even get some kicks in response (from baby, not her!). Light massage has an even greater positive effect.
Whenever possible, go to midwife, hospital or consultant appointments as well as scans. I also recommend attending antenatal preparation classes together. Courses like hypnobirthing will teach you a lot about how to become the ultimate birthing team. Another great course is Birthing4Blokes, an online preparation course written specifically for men by a male midwife (it's fab!).
HOW CAN I SUPPORT HER DURING LABOUR AND BIRTH?
As her oxytocin levels increase in labour, your testosterone levels will do so also leading to an increased need to 'do something'. Here are some active ways to support your partner.
Keeper of the birth zone
It's your very important role to ensure that the birthing environment is safe and nurturing. You will have chatted about how she wants the space to be: maybe dimmed lights, comfort, people in the room etc.
Take care of yourself
In order to care for your partner, you need to care for yourself. To maintain your energy eat, drink and take some breaks...don't forget to pack your own snack filled hospital bag too :).
Take care of her
Prompt her to eat and drink to keep her energy up and remind her to have a wee every now and then.
Your voice, your touch, your smell, are all reminders of safety, home, passion, comfort. Your nurturing presence and attentiveness will help keep her calm and maintain her oxytocin levels. Breathe with her, sway with her, hold her and tell her how amazing she is.
But your most vital role, is being the expert on her. You are the only one in the room that knows her thoughts, who can read her cues and who knows what you both want for you and your baby. Trust yourself and your instincts.
YOUR TINY HUMAN IS HERE: I'M A DAD!
Ensure that your partner remains safe and nurtured during that first hour of motherhood (aptly named 'the Golden Hour') so that she can continue to ride her oxytocin high for as long as possible.
Just 'be' in this moment. Hold fire with those announcement texts, tweets, emails, facebook status', snapchats, telegrams etc.
Your baby knows you already but deepen that bond further by whipping off your shirt for some newborn skin to skin cuddles.
There are lots of wonderful things that come out of your involvement in the birthing process. But most powerfully, you are giving your family the very best start.
Your new little team.
This post was originally written for Norwich Mumbler: Local Parenting Community. You can find this article and so much more info in this brilliant ebook (click on the image for the link):